Simon Terry

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Working Out Loud & Building Antifragility

For the robust, an error is information; for the fragile an error is an error. – Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

Many people struggle with the risks & discomfort of working out loud. Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s concept of Anti-Fragility helps understand when to work our loud.

Taleb distinguishes between three adjectives of in his work:

  • fragile: at best unharmed by a shock 
  • robust: at best and at worst unharmed a shock, i.e. unchanged 
  • anti-fragile: at worst unharmed by a shock and with potential to be improved.

These ideas is a useful way to shape the practice of working out loud.

When to Work Out Loud 

If a situation is likely to be fragile, for example because you can’t handle feedback or the situation requires a single answer, think carefully about working out loud or at least work out loud and mitigate the risks. Working out loud on a performance management conversation or feedback for another is a situation that is likely to be fragile. The relationship and performance could be jeopardised with any shocks or simply from a sense of lack of fairness in the transparency.

In situations where you are robust or anti-fragile, working out loud is essential.  There is no downside and at worst information and at best opportunities to improve your work. Complex or chaotic scenarios in the Cynefin framework are examples of situations likely to demonstrate these characteristics as working out loud can play into an effective strategy of probe-sense-respond or act-sense-respond. 

Becoming Anti-fragile

One of the strong reasons that I recommend people experiment with working out loud, such as in the safe environment of a working out loud circle, is that practice builds towards an anti-fragile state of work. Many of the initial concerns from working out loud come from concerns around emotional states, perceptions and ‘doing it wrong’. So many people complicate the simple act of sharing purposefully and openly.

Many of these concerns are overblown and contribute to our fragility at work. Practice of working out loud in simple experiments of sharing across diverse contexts can help individuals to see that they and their relationships are far more robust than they expect. They and their relationships can be deepened by the better information, shared context and trust created by working out loud.  The many benefits of working out loud can push them to greater practice as they realise the benefits of learning continuously.


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